The Welsh Government has been slammed for failing to make Glastir payments after it emerged one Ceredigion farmer, Huw Davies, was still waiting to be reimbursed £25,000 for work he has carried out to comply with the agri-environment scheme.
In March, Farmers Guardian reported on the difficulty farmers were facing as they were being left to wait longer for their money. Payments were sent out as early as November in the past, and NFU Cymru was led to believe they would be made by March this year.
At the time, a Welsh Government spokesperson said ‘there are no late payments for Glastir as there is no payment window’ – a comment which ‘incensed’ the industry according to Farmers’ Union of Wales head of policy Dr Nick Fenwick.
“The Welsh Government regularly writes to farmers giving them thirty days to repay sums which have been incorrectly paid”, Dr Fenwick added.
Three months late
“If Welsh Ministers believe this is a reasonable time period, then they should follow the same principle themselves. Based on such a period, many hundreds of Glastir payments are now more than three months late.”
For beef and sheep farmer Mr Davies, the delayed payment is having a knock-on effect on the rest of his business.
“We have carried out all of the work we were required to under our Glastir advanced contract, such as building a 180-metre stone wall, planting 250 metres of hedges and fencing off woodland”, he said.
“We have still not been reimbursed for income foregone, which now adds up to £25,000.
“Last year we were reimbursed by April for our environmental work, which was not too bad, but considering our BPS was late this year as well, things are tight financially. We cannot invest in the business or pay our contractors.
“It is very frustrating and almost impossible to plan ahead or even fill out your tax forms when you might end up getting two payments in the same financial year or none at all.”
NFU Cymru has said it is aware of many farmers with similar problems. The issue is particularly acute in Meirionnydd, where a high proportion of claims have not been paid.
Emlyn Roberts, Meirionnydd county vice chairman said: “What infuriates farmers is the lack of information about when payments are likely to be made. Whenever they enquire with the Welsh Government, the lack of detail as to when the support is likely to be paid is quite worrying.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson told Farmers Guardian Rural Payments Wales was working to pay all but the most complex Glastir cases over the coming weeks.
The Glastir debacle came as the deadline for submitting annual claims for England’s beleaguered agri-environment scheme, Countryside Stewardship, was extended for 2017 applicants.
Natural England was put under serious pressure earlier this year after it became clear CS payments were behind schedule.
It is thought IT problems with the payment system and a lack of staff were to blame for the delays.
For agreements which started on January 1 2017, the CS annual claims deadline is now June 15. For all other agreement types and BPS, the claims deadline remains May 15.